Riding around Iceland

After spending 10 days in Reykjavik, we decided it was enough, but what else was there to do? Of course, all the good museums, bars, and culture were there in the city as well as most of the people. There was, of course something else, the main attraction of Iceland, the natural beauty. But how to see it best? You could take tourist bus tours. We went on one called, the Golden Circle. That however, like everything else in Iceland was rather expensive, $150 for the 2 of us for a 6 hour ride. Still, it was great. We saw 2 major waterfalls, geysers and mud pits, and a historical area that was built right on the point where the North American plate and the European plate come together. You could see that too, as the American ridge rose up about 20 meters from the other. It was kind of scary and awe inspiring. Icelandic people told us the plates move with the same speed that our fingernails grow, about 2 cm a year. Anyway, I wanted to go further, see more, be independent and free. That meant renting a car. Online I looked and found a car for about $90 a day. I figured 2 days to get around the island. People told me it took about 16 hours of straight driving. So I took the plunge and made the reservation. There was a guy staying permanently in our airbnb named Jon. He seemed like an ok guy. Not too friendly, but I became interested in him when he told me he was a commercial deep sea driver. He told me all about it. Mostly he laid deep sea cables and worked in a dry suit. Never had any problems, but one of his colleagues died in an accident once. When I told him about the rental car, he cocked his head and said, “hmmmm. Thats a lot for a car. Damn this country, everything is so expensive for you. The most in the world”. I nodded. ” suddenly he said, “you know, I’m not using my car for a few days, why don’t you take it.” I couldn’t believe what he was saying. He didnt even know me. We had talked about 20 minutes. Too bad i had already rented. Anyway was he really serious? A day before we were scheduled to leave, the rental car company emailed me that they didn’t have any cars at that price after all. Thanks for letting me know jerks. I approached Jon that night, “were you really serious about the car?” “Sure, why not?” unbelievable his generosity. And it was a nice car, a Peugot sporty model, with a dual manual automatic transmission. Seeing as we had no other option, we took him up on it. Our plan was to drive along the South coast, hoping to meet some glaciers, then turn north and end up in the village of Seydisfjordor (which was on a fjord) which was having a music and art festival, and the cut across the top to number 2 city of Akuryeri, which lies above the article circle, then swing down back to Reykuvic. Since everyone told us it would take 16 hours to drive all the way around the “Ring Road” we figured the first leg to be about 6 hours and would arrive on Thursday night. What a gross miscalculation that was. Of course there were a lot of places to stop along the way. We hadn’t driven 1 hour when we came to a geothermal power station. That I HAD to stop in. It was fascinating for me. They generated power by sending super-heated steam through turbines. They also generated hot water for the area as a byproduct. They let us look right into the plant. We’ve got nothing to hide, they kept saying. What was also amazing was the ground around there. It looked like nothing I’d ever seen. Like the insides of someone’s intestines, or a microscopic view of the inside of a nose. If you examined it closely there was about a 6 inch layer of spongy moss covering most areas. Those that weren’t were a kind of dark slag and volcanic rock. As we drove we kept looking at the ever-changing eerie landscapes. There are 4 major glaciers in Iceland covering more than 10% of the area. 2 of then are accessible from the southern Ring Road. Of course you have to stop for a glacier and we did. It was only a few kilometers from the main road. Seeing the glacier at first was confusing. It looked like black rock mostly and some ice. But on closer examination, it was ash from volcanos of years past that was dusting the glaciers. Underneath was ice. Also as we got closer we could see the magical blue ice. It’s a color unlike any other. There seems to be light coming from inside the ice, but in a very mysterious way. Unearthly. Walking on the glacier is a little scary, but fun. Every once in a while you come to a crevice, that carooms deep down into the depths. Of course I had to eat some glacier,tasting water that has been there for more than 10,000 years. It tasted good. Lots of minerals. Of course I had to pee on the glacier. Well, I guess it’s a guy thing. Just think, my pee will outlive me. The really fascinating thing is to watch the huge chunks of ice floating around like giant ice cubes in the worlds biggest mixed drink. If you are brave enough to get in the icy water and try to push one of those chunks you will be surprised. They don’t move easily, even though they are floating they still have tremendous mass and don’t want to move easily. Ok. So much for the science lesson.
Also along the way were some tremendous waterfalls, the kind that are on postcards. The kind that you can walk behind. And get soaked. What fun. In fact, as we drove we noticed so many waterfalls. One mountain might have 10 waterfalls. Small ones but beautiful because they look like strings of silver or tears. We probably saw 1000 waterfalls as we drove around the island. Maybe they should call the country Waterfallland, not Iceland. But as we got further and further east we were awed by the endless string of majestic mountains that billowed out of the sea into the grey skys. And yet there was something wrong. None of the mountains had trees. In fact, Iceland has no native trees, just small bushes. They’ve tried to import trees, but that 6 month darkness, doesn’t encourage tree growth. The joke going around Iceland, which we heard 4 or 5 times is, “what do you do if you get lost in an Icelandic forest?…. Stand up. ” the effect of mountains and landscape in general without trees is subtlety disorienting,; you know something is wrong but you can’t put your finger on what it is. It’s kind of like the 24 hour light. Your body knows its dark time, but your mind wants to stay awake because it’s light. We had nowhere to sleep, so I just drove till I got tired, about 230 am I guess , and slept till I woke up and drove some more. It’s a good thing too because that 16 hour figure was way off.
Not too long before we turned north, we came to an amazing place at Hofn. It is there that the glacier ices break off and float in the river. Huge chunks the size of riverboats serenely float. We arrived around 5 am. You would think its quiet, but there were thousands of birds and there was a feeding frenzy. They were going crazy, plucking small something’s from the freezing waters and then flying out and flying back. The din was deafening. If you watched closely, the birds were bringing their bounty back for other birds. They were feeding them mouth to mouth, beak to beak. My guess is that the male was feeding the female. Wow. What a life! I want to be a female bird living at the glacier in Hofn for my next life. I really hated to leave that place. It was sooooooo magical. We didn’t arrive in the eastern city of Seydisfjordor until 3pm the next day, 30 hours after we left. Of course it didn’t help that I was taking pictures a mile a minute, or that I had to stop frequently to do that. It got worse after about 12 midnight when there were no cars except me, and I could stop in the middle of the road whenever I wanted. I couldn’t resist. It was too fantastic. I took about 1000 pictures in 60 hours. Eventually we got to Seydisfjordor. It WAS lovely. But we weren’t too impressed with the festival so we drove on after a few hours. Another all night drive arriving at Akyekuri around 4 am. Another nap in the car and a nice time walking around the town. It had its own famous church done by the same guy who did the Volcano church. It wasn’t as intense but also very modern and lovely. Here we also saw some surprisingly good art museums. We headed out around 3 pm in the rain, hoping to get back to Reykuvic around 10 or 11 pm for some nice street play. Things went pretty well after a long night. We were driving through a large desert area. After about 5 hours of driving, we came suddenly and unexpectedly to a big hot area just off the main ring road. Hot with steaming ground, mud pots, hissing sounds, and sulfur smell. It was great and we stayed about an hour walking around the mysterious wasteland in awe.
Just to backtrack a bit, when we were coming from the airport to the city in a big transport bus, there were 2 women sitting next to us. I asked then why they were in Iceland. “to photograph the horses.” we thought it was quite funny because the one woman rather looked like a horse, and also, what a strange thing to do. Later we were to find out that Icelandic horses are a big deal among some people. It seems they come from a special breed brought over by the Vikings. In fact the government protects them. You may not bring any other type of horse into the country, and exporting these special horses is a big business. A guide told us that they have a special way of walking that other horses don’t have. Regular horses can walk in a few ways like, gallop, canter, whatever, but these horses can walk with their 2 feet together like a camel. Sounds like bloody rubbish to me, but whatever. Still i had to admit, they were beautiful, with their beautiful manes flowing over their handsome heads. Near Seydisfjordor, we saw a couple of horses standing by the grocery store. I thought to stop and see them, but I didnt because we were tired and wanted to go on. A few minutes later i regretted that. As we were getting within a few hours of Reykuvic i was really feeling i had missed my chance. Then i saw a bunch of horses by the side of the road, and the owners were doing something with them. I made a u-turn and came back. The owners didnt mind and suddenly there they were. The most beautiful horses. We could touch and pet them. The mane of my favorite horse, was a tan color, a few shades lighter than his chocolate brown skin. It looked like he’d jus had his hair styled. They were so friendly, almost eager to be with us. And it seemed like they had expressions on their faces. They actually smiled. The owners who were preparing for a 10 day horse ride, took most of the horses, in a galloping stampede, across the road, and they all followed. That left about 4 with us. We stayed as long ss we wanted, and had a grest time with those horses. I actually felt sad to lesve them. I gsve them names, and now i miss them, and i am definetly not a horse person, or I wasn’t before. Now i am an Icelandic horse person. We drove on, and it wasnt long before we could see the famous Volcano church looming off in the distance. It was amazing though how far we drove after we saw it, anothher 30 minutes it seemed. That church is visible a looooooong way off. We somehow managed to find our home and parked at the bus station. We went directly to play. Although it was good, it wasn’t as good as it had been the previous week. Still we were raking in the money. We decided we would give that money to Jon as a thank you, but in the end it was too much so we gave him about 130 dollars of that and 3/4s tank of gas, another 100 dollars value. I was worried how to get Jon his keys. He had told me he would be home and that I should just push the keys through the blinds. At 630 am I walked to the window and heard some voices. One was female. I was embarrassed but what could I do? “Jon. I’ve got your car.” “hey Frank, I’m here with a really beautiful lady. Do you have a condom?” luckily I did. I pushed it, the keys and the money through the Venetian blinds. Jon didn’t even ask about the car, the trip, or anything else, and who could blame him. I gave him the one thing he really needed, just like he had given to me.
In the end, driving around Iceland was probably not such a great idea.,the cost of gas was astronomical, I don’t even want to think about how much I paid in gas. The long endless driving, sleeping in the car, eating in the car. Yet now that I’ve done it, I wouldn’t want to give those memories up. I feel like I KNOW Iceland. That crazy, quirky, mysterious hot zone, with it’s beautiful and beautifully different people.

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